FRANKFORT, Ky- The war of words over a health insurance rule continues between the Bevin Administration and Attorney General Andy Beshear.
The latest spat revolves around essential health benefits, a group of ten benefits included within the Affordable Care Act that provide a baseline of coverage, benefits and services. Some of these benefits cover things like prescription drugs, or maternity and newborn care.
In statements released by Andy Beshear he spoke about the Department of Labor’s rule impacting those with preexisting conditions.
“I disagree with the governor’s new action because it threatens health care coverage for Kentuckians, including people with preexisting health conditions. While Matt Bevin continues his work to strip vital coverage away from our families, I am fighting to make sure all Kentuckians get the health care they need and can afford it," Beshear said in a statement on Tuesday.
This is what caused Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Adam Meier to speak out against Beshear on Wednesday and demand he retract his comments on the rule.
In a phone interview Thursday, Meier spoke out against Beshear once again.
“We thought it was disingenuous that he was out there putting that information out and fearmongering, likely for political purposes, or showing a misunderstanding of what the rule actually did,” Meier said. “We thought it was important that public knows what this rule does and doesn’t do.”
The rule was struck down by a federal judge because he said it was a “run-around” to the ACA. While the rule states companies must cover preexisting conditions, it does not state that essential health benefits must be included in these plans. The American Medical Association and other medical groups have spoken out against the rule for this provision, which they say threatens the affordability aspect of healthcare for those with preexisting conditions, however, Meier says he disagrees with this assessment of the rule.
“What an AHP does is allows there to be another avenue for insurance. First of all, it’s important to remember just because they have access to an AHP doesn’t mean that they can’t get a plan on the exchange or in the private market, or somewhere else, so it’s not mandated they take this coverage,” Meier said. “So it expands access to a plan that then allows that employee to have their employer pay part of their premiums, so it can actually help with affordability in a number of ways, and that’s just one of them. I think another thing to remember, is when we look at employer sponsored insurance, and often these are considered the Cadillac plan that are in the market.”
Meier said because these association health plans aren’t required to offer everything required in the individual market does not mean they plans aren’t comprehensive.
Meier argued these plans are a good thing for sole proprietors and small businesses. Currently, associations like dental or medical associations are able to band together and offer health insurance coverage for their members. This rule would have expanded this to all small businesses, which was another issue the federal judge saw this rule.
Judge John Bates said the rule “ignored” the language and purpose of both the Affordable Care Act and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.
Judge Bates said the Department of Labor “unreasonably expands the definition of “employers” to include groups without any real commonality of interest and to bring working owners without employees within ERISA’s scope despite Congress’s clear intent that ERISA cover benefits arising out of employment relationships.”
Meier says Beshear’s opposition to this rule goes against small businesses.
“By Andy Beshear challenging this rule he’s actually hurting his own profession,” Meier said. “It’s just an example of the kind of the anti-business climate that we can expect with his continued lawsuits. The Bevin Administration supporting the Trump Administration in this final rule is really about expanding insurance options and insurance coverage to different segments that are underrepresented right now.”
Beshear refutes this claim and stands his ground that this rule would hurt Kentuckians.
“I am proud to stand with leading patient and consumer advocates like the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association, who strongly oppose what the Bevin administration is trying to do to working families,” Beshear said in a statement Friday. “If Matt Bevin is successful, insurance companies will once again be allowed to deny vital coverage, like prescription drugs, emergency services and mental health services, to people with preexisting medical conditions. Bevin’s actions would render many Kentuckians’ insurance policies nothing more than pieces of paper, because it would allow insurance companies to refuse to pay for things many Kentuckians need to survive. That’s unacceptable and I’m not going to stop fighting to protect the health and financial security of our families.”
The rule is awaiting a hearing in the United States Court of Appeals.